The New York Rangers conclude the 2022 preseason Saturday night when they take on the New York Islanders at UBS Arena. Sitting at 2-2-1, New York has shown enough flashes to get their team excited about a season with heightened expectations.
While players like Mika Zibanejad, Zac Jones, and Vincent Trocheck have shown signs of excellence, some players have yet to stand out when needed and cause concern for the team’s start of the season on Tuesday night.
Here are three names to watch for the New York Rangers’ final preseason game tonight.
At the start of the preseason, there wasn’t a single skater playing better than K’Andre Miller. His size and speed on the ice made him a formidable weapon on both offense and defense. His ability to move the puck up the ice was just as impressive.
That was before this past week though. After the team lost a 5-4 preseason game to Boston on Wednesday, the entire defensive group was called into question.
Miller was not saved from that either. The first goal of the game from Boston came on a poor pass and turnover from Miller that started a breakaway. Being careless with the puck was a staple for the Rangers on Wednesday night, but if Miller is going to take the necessary jump needed in his third season, he needs to be far more consistent.
Through the last two practices, Vitali Kravtsov hasn’t been specifically working with a line group but has continued to get work with Artemi Panarin.
It’s good to see Kravtsov continue to show that he wants to get better after practice and play as much as possible. Still, it doesn’t help that through two preseason games with Panarin, Kravtsov has been a relative no-show on the stat sheet.
Whether it was not hitting the net on open shots or making offensive plays, Kravtsov hasn’t made a true name for himself nor has shown he belongs among the Rangers’ top lines. Kravtsov made a point in training camp to say that he needed to “prove himself” throughout the preseason.
Unfortunately, through five preseason games, it’s not a guarantee that Kravtsov is worthy of a roster spot.
Head coach Gerard Gallant was adamant after the 5-4 loss to Boston that the players who were on the roster bubble did not play as they should have.
That is very good news for Ryan Reaves. The 35-year-old has been locked in a position battle with other fourth-line players looking to make a name for themselves. If Reaves plays as he is expected to on Saturday night, it’ll be a great chance to show the physicality and aggression that has made him a fan favorite throughout his career.
For fourth-line players, numbers on a stat sheet aren’t the only contributing factor to tell if a player performed well. The same can be said for Reaves. As the Rangers continue to draw closer to deciding on the team’s starting lineup for Tuesday, a strong performance from Reaves will make things a lot easier for a group that is looking for the right combinations at each line.
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